Being totally self-reliant, able to fend for yourself – it’s an appealing idea, one that’s been romanticized in literature and the movies.
Think Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe’s adventure about a man shipwrecked on a desert island for 28 years. And Walden – Henry David Thoreau’s account of his two-year “experiment” in simple living. And Cast Away – with Tom Hanks as a too-busy executive suddenly marooned for four years after his plane goes down during a business trip.
I’m not the build-a-cabin-with-your-bare-hands, grow-your-own-food, cook-over-a-wood-stove type. Still, I’d like to think I could make do without modern conveniences.
No, wait. I don’t have to think I could do it, I know I can do it.
In 2004, two hurricanes (Frances and Jeanne) scored a direct hit on my hometown. For more than a week after each one, my neighborhood had no electricity, no hot water, and sometimes no water at all. But I was fine.
With the help of a couple of ice chests and a manual can opener, I fed myself and my dog. Cold showers – unpleasant, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. A plug-in phone and a portable radio connected me to the outside world. And a neighbor ran an extension cord between his generator and my computer so I could get my work done.
It was a challenge for people who had young children that needed to be kept busy all day long. I had a different challenge… because there were an awful lot of unexpected hours I had to fill by myself.
Gas stations weren’t pumping gas, and there was debris all over the streets, which made driving anywhere a risky proposition. So I was pretty much stuck in the house. Much to my surprise, I didn’t mind at all.
What would you do if you were stuck in the house for days on end with no electricity? I’m guessing you’d do what I did – things you love to do but never seem to have enough time for.
While it was still light out, I went for walks and visited with neighbors. I sketched. I painted. When it got dark, I read by the light of a Coleman lantern. I did a little writing. And when the electricity finally came back on, it was like coming home after a good vacation. I felt rested and rejuvenated.
Maybe more important, I was inspired to find the time to do more of the things that had been giving me so much pleasure – things that we all know are necessary for leading a well-balanced life… and making life a little richer.